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Journalist @baltimoresun writer artist runner #amwriting Chaplain PIO #partylikeajournalist
Journalist @baltimoresun writer artist runner #amwriting Md Troopers Assoc #20 & Westminster Md Fire Dept Chaplain PIO #partylikeajournalist

Monday, September 12, 1988

19880900 To Burn or Not to Burn an interview with Neil Seldman

Recycling is both environmentally sound and economically sensible

An Interview with Neil Seldman, by Robert Gilman

One of the articles in The Next Agenda (IC#19)

Autumn 1988, Page 22

Copyright (c)1988, 1997 by Context Institute | To order this issue ...

Neil Seldman is the President of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (2425 18th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009) and a consultant to cities and citizen groups around the country who are looking for sensible solutions to the growing garbage crisis.

Robert: People aren't nearly as aware as they could be about the waste crisis, in spite of all the media coverage it's starting to get.

Neil: That's right. We've all heard of the garbage barge from Islip. But I wonder how many people have heard of the ash barge from Philadelphia? The material on the Islip barge was municipal waste, technically commercial waste. On Philadelphia's barge the material is waste incinerator ash, not from a modern mass burn plant, but from an old time incinerator going back 80 or 90 years, a garbage destructor. The amount of garbage on the Islip barge was 3,000 tons, but the ash on the Philadelphia barge weighed 15,000 tons. And how long were they at sea? The Islip barge four months, the Philadelphia barge twenty-three months and it's still on the high seas. Where did the Islip barge go? It went from Islip down the East coast to the Caribbean and back to Brooklyn, where the gargage was finally burned and its remains sent to Islip. Now, the Philadelphia barge has been down through all of those states, into the Caribbean, out to West Africa, back to Philadelphia, and back out to West Africa again.

Robert: It's very curious that the media hasn't picked up on this.

Neil: It shows how you can't trust the media. You must go very deeply into these issues, because these issues are going to determine your future directly in your city. And your small town. These problems have to be solved within three years. Right now most of the authorities in the United States want to turn what was on the Islip barge into what is on the Philadelphia barge. They want to burn the garbage and dispose of the ash. And the story is, look how much more difficult it is to get rid of the ash than the garbage!

Robert: I understand this is all coming to a head because so many municipal areas are basically running out of landfill.

Neil: Absolutely. And that's actually understating the problem, because 8 years ago you could put garbage in the ground on the East coast for $5 a ton, and now it's a $100 a ton for landfill space. One of the ironies is that throughout the 1970's New Jersey tried to keep Pennsylvania's garbage out of New Jersey. They went all the way to the Supreme Court and were eventually told they couldn't do it because of the Interstate Commerce Clause. Right now, guess where New Jersey's garbage is going. Into Pennsylvania. That's how quickly and profoundly the situation has changed.

And it's not because of a lack of landfill space. It's there theoretically, but politically it's become impossible because of the incredible growth of cities, towns and suburbs. Literally no one's neighborhood is unaffected. And people don't want to see their property devalued tremendously, their kids' health risked, their environment destroyed.

Robert: So the alternatives are recycling - or mass burn.

Read the entire interview here: To Burn Or Not To Burn

All contents copyright (c)1988, 1997 by Context Institute

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Last Updated 29 June 2000.


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